Leo Francis' Exclusive Interview with Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare - Writer / Director / Actress / Producer)
I had the pleasure of meeting with several of the stars of the film Truth or Dare after it's premier at the Shockfest Film Festival a few weekends ago, among which was the woman who put it all together, Jessica Cameron. Jessica produced the film, co-wrote the script with Jonathan Scott Higgins (Part 4 coming soon) and had a starring role. But when the film found itself without a director, she stepped up to the plate - and like the ending of any great baseball story, when the team needed her the most, she knocked it out of the park. It's no wonder that she took home Best Director at the Shockfest Film Festival. Jessica is not only a driven and multi-talented film maker but the queen of social media, working tirelessly around the clock to promote her film. It is this continued dedication that will be the reason for her success. I want to note that she (and the rest of the wonderful people that worked on the film) couldn't possibly be any sweeter and more friendly in person, so I was truly blown away by just how sadistic and cruel the film they created was. It's been covered extensively in both my review and parts one and two of the Truth or Dare Interviews with Devanny Pinn and Ryan Kiser, but one scene in particular was so graphic it actually physically affected me. Which is saying a lot. I sat through a Serbian Film without flinching, and Truth or Dare made me light headed. Congratulations to Jessica, who is a talented and motivated film maker with great things in her future. And a sincere THANK YOU to her for taking the time to answer my questions. The way I see it, if the Mumble Gore guys like Ti West, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, and Simon Barrett are the genre's current senior class, then Jessica, Brandon Slagle, Devanny Pinn, and Ryan Kiser represent the genre's rowdy freshman class. And the new kids are showing us that they might just take over the whole school. So here's Part Three of my Truth or Dare Interviews with Jessica Cameron.
Leo Francis: Congratulations on taking home four awards at last weekend's Shockfest Film Festival of Hollywood, which included Best Director. That must seem like a high compliment for your debut. And for me personally, the true test of a great director is what you are able to achieve on an extremely limited budget, a test that you pass with flying colors. I know this film was shot on a limited budget, how did those constraints force you to get creative in order to achieve what you wanted? And do you feel that that ended up making it a better film?
Jessica Cameron: I absolutely think that our budget restrictions made it a better/stronger film. Not having money to assist with solving a problem really forced us to think of creative solutions. I always wanted this script to be character driven, and I was blessed to be friends with some of the brightest actors within the indie horror world acting today. I worked closely with FX genius Carrie Mercado to figure out the best, and cheapest way to do the gore. As a horror fan did not want anything to be sacrificed, so it became kinda a game to figure out cheaper ways of doing the same thing.
LF: You've been working tirelessly since 2008 on mostly indie-horror films and after seeing the film and interacting with you it's pretty clear your passion for the craft is infectious. Do you find that helps you achieve your vision as a director? And do you find your experience as an actor makes directing your fellow actors more comfortable?
JC: I am very much an actor's director, and I am proud of that. I have been on so many sets and have seen what works and what doesn't, I don't believe that there is one right way to direct, and everyone is different. I worked with the actors extensively before shooting to help them understand their characters, where they came from and what makes them tick. I have found that this helps me as an actor to deliver a strong and believable performance. My actors were great and would work with me as much as I demanded, poor Heather Dorff was on the phone with me till the wee hours on the morning on more then one occasion. Her character was so complex it was needed, and she delivered one hell of a performance.
LF: As an actress, you've certainly earned your title as a 'Scream Queen'. Who is your scream queen idol? And what film was it that got you hooked on the genre?
JC: The original scream queen, and a huge inspiration to me is Jamie Lee Curtis. I think all women working within the industry today owe her so much, she really raised the bar for women in films in my opinion (not just women in horror films). Looking at her career she has refused to be labeled and gone on to do a wide variety of films and genres, all the while owning her horror start. One of the very first horror films I remember seeing and loving was Robert Kurtzman's The WIshmaster. For me it really connected with me, the simple yet true tag line of "be careful what you wish for". The performances were great, the story was fun and scared me and I consider it to be a classic to this day!
LF: I want to give you a few compliments: First I am a hardcore genre fan, and have seen some pretty graphic and brutal onscreen violence in my time, but very few films even cause me to flinch. And even fewer films make me squirm uncomfortably in my seat for the entire length. Yours was one of those films. I actually had to walk out and splash water on my face after the 'bottle scene'. I have to ask, as you co-wrote the script, whose idea was that scene?
JC: First - THANK YOU! I am so honored! As a horror film maker I wear that as a badge of honor!!!! I thought of the first part, and then there was this moment when finalizing the last draft prior to shooting that my co-writer (Jon Higgins) looked at me with this excited grim on his face. He said "I thought of something, but its so wrong I don't think we can do it!". My response before even hearing what he would say was "If its so wrong that we can not do it then that means we must!". Then I heard his end idea and loved it! It was something that I had never seen in a horror film and so appropriate to the characters!
LF: Next I want to give you credit for your social media presence. I don't think I can name anyone who does it better. I seek out indie horror and try to support it as best I can, and I still miss certain films. But there isn't a person on Twitter who hasn't heard about this movie. And I mean that as a high compliment. How do you have the time? It really makes so much difference.
JC- Awww thank you so very much for noticing! I really appreciate it! Well t helps that film making and acting is my full time job. I literally work about 18 hours a day on average, 7 days a week. I consider myself a graduate of the SOSKA school of film making, their film "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" was a huge inspiration to me for directing "Truth or Dare". They are also avid self social media marketers and are the only people I know who work as many hours each week as I do. At the end of the day if you are not shouting from EVERY SINGLE ROOF TOP 24/7 about the film that you have killed yourself to make, who will?!?!!?
LF: Do you ever want to venture outside of the indie horror genre, either as an actor or a director? What genre would you choose if you did?
JC: As an actress I would love to. I have acted in comedies and syfy, and I really enjoyed myself. I would love to do more. As far as directing goes I have no immediate plans to direct again, I directed "Truth or Dare" and I am glad that I did, but at the end of the day I prefer acting and producing. So 2014 will see me doing more of that.
LF: Name one movie you walked out of in the theater.
JC: I honestly refuse to walk out of a film. I always hope that they will get better, my logic is if X amount of people tried to come together to make a good film and I paid to see it then I need to stay for all 90 min. That being said "Lords of Salem" made me wish I had!
LF: If you could punch one person in the face, who would it be?
JC: Can just give you an alphabetized list? In short every "producer" that has made a sexual suggestion towards me, every one that has lied about me, etc. Sadly there is so much back stabbing within this business, it makes you value your true friends so very much! In reality there are about 10 people on that list, and given that I have been on more then 70 sets its a relatively low number...
LF: Has anyone ever made you feel star struck?
JC: I attended a horror con, and was asked to be in a group photo with all the guests. Jen and Sylvia Soska were also guests and as soon as I came face to face with Sylvia after taking the photo I gushed about how I made my film largely from with the inspiration I had gotten from them and their success with "Dead Hooker in a Trunk". She immediately hugged me and I just felt so inspired and touched. She listened as I told her about my film with genuine interest and we have been friends ever since. They are some of the greatest human beings I know not to mention amazing film makers! Also getting my SHOCKFEST awards from Linda Blair was pretty amazing for this horror nerd, Luckily for me I caught it all on tape with my camera phone (cause you kinda go blank when major things like that happen, or at least I do.
LF: What is your favorite horror movie and/or the scariest movie you've ever seen?
JC: My favorite horror film is Martyrs - it really impacted me. The scariest film I have ever seen would have to be "The Ring" remake. Something about the content combined with the super creepy sounds really plagued me for a long time! I was ready to throw my tv out the window of my 26 story apartment the moment it turned on by itself!
Once again, a very special thanks to Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaCameron_ and also for news about Truth or Dare follow the film at @FilmTruthorDare. No excuses for missing this one, unless you don't have the stomach. Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of the Truth or Dare Interviews with Co-Writer and Producer Jonathan Scott Higgins. Cheers.